Social Stories

Have you ever heard of 'social stories'?

I had never heard of these until a recent visit we had with a behavioral specialist - discussing Devika's challenging behaviors.  One of the worst problems that I currently have with Devi is her ability to calm down when I put her to bed - nap and bedtime.  She is having horrible separation anxiety with me.  {And actually, this behavior is the same that she exhibits when left with a sitter or had been when she was dropped at preschool.  The weighted blanket worked for awhile with this, but hasn't been working lately.}

Every time that I put her to bed, we follow the same exact routine.  Unfortunately, it does not seem to matter to her.  When I am getting ready to lay her down, she starts repeating 'mommy? mommy? mommy?...I wake up? I wake up? I wake up?..' over and over.  When I begin moving away from her crib, she FREAKS out immediately.  Screams like she is being tortured and jumps up and down.  This only lasts for maybe 5 minutes (and if she is very tired, it lasts maybe 2-3 minutes).. but it is horrible!!  I know it is short-lived, but the girl acts completely terrorized.  This is not the normal 'don't leave me' cry.. we've seen that with both girls.  This is an all-out freakout.  If she isn't tired, this can last for ~10-15 minutes.
I'm mostly afraid that Devi will hurt herself with these fits.  Afraid she will bang her head or go flying out of the crib.  She jumps sooo high.  Poor thing.. I just can't find anything that will help her remain calm.  The only thing that helps is if Aj is home.  If he is here, he can put her down and she will not freak out like this.

So - the behavior analyst told us to try creating a 'social story' book and read it to her every night.  I was told to write out Devi's bedtime routine like a story with pictures of her in it (she is very visual), and add it to her nightly routine.  Or let her read it at other times also.  
I have put one together and am having it printed through (luv them btw).  I so hope this helps.  :(  We've been dealing with these anxiety issues for a couple of months now and it is just painful.  It also upsets Maya quite a bit and then I have to help calm HER down.

Once I began working on the book, I googled 'social stories' and found a ton of information.  These stories are an important tool in helping autistic children (well, not just children I guess, but any person having an autism spectrum disorder) interpret certain types of situations (social situations, etc).  
There are actually specifically designed styles and formats that should be used when creating one of these stories, though I did not actually follow the model very closely.  If I find the need to create others in the future, I will probably do so. 

You can check out my book through the following widget/link. 

*If you are interested in further info, you might want to check out this site (Carol Gray created the concept): .

One of 'Those Moms' ..Again

Sex In The City 2.. I have one word:
I spent most of the (much too long) movie being embarrassed for my girls.  And I LUV my SITC girls!  But alas, this movie was a bomb.

There was one bit of the movie, however, that rang-in near and dear to the hearts of both myself and the friend who joined me at the theater.  If you saw the movie, I am referring to the two scenes that dealt with Charlotte and her mommy-meltdowns. 

The first scene depicted a meltdown.  Charlotte was (wtf?!) making a gazillion pink-frosted cupcakes in her white kitchen.  Wearing a WHITE dress mind you.  An expensive, vintage white dress.  She was trying to talk on the phone at the same time.. and manage her two small children.  Needless to say, one child screamed incessantly the entire time {hmmm.. now THAT sounds familiar..} while the other got into the red food coloring and ended up making a huge red/pink mess - including red handprints on the butt of her mom's white vintage dress. 

OK, so there are so many things wrong with that scene - so many 'um - no - {freaking} - way' - things wrong with that scene.. that the scene looked like something out of a 'Count how many things are not right in this picture' child's game.

Where I am going with this, however, is into the pantry with Charlotte.  After the 'handprints' incident, mommy had to get away for a moment.  Time-out for mommy in the pantry.. as Charlotte dissolved into tears.  Now THIS I can relate to!  Not that I have cried in the closet..
but this could occur at any time. 

Mommy is stressed today!!  This job, my friends, is not for the faint-of-heart.  If you are childless and out there scoffing at harried-looking moms being screamed at in public venues by ungodly-loud toddlers.. if you are thinking (ok, I used to be this person!)..
'Good god woman - get a grip on your kids!!'..
well..  I don't blame you.  And I hope you are never in my shoes.

Seriously.. my almost-3-yr old daughter is starting to worry me.  At any time now, I expect her head to start whipping around in circles and pea-soup to spray across the room. 

So I guess maybe we are in the midst of the 'Terrible Two's and Three's'.  Add in the fact that Devika has sensory processing issues and likely will be diagnosed with ADHD (according to her OT).. and you might start to understand why mommy needs to ensure she is stocked up on wine prior to hubby traveling during the week!!  Good god, I can't imagine the havoc this child could create at a liquor store full of glass bottles.  {Someone needs to start a delivery service that focuses on evening-mommy-needs.  Wine runs, decent take-out food, anti-anxiety medications.  ;) }
I made the HUGE mistake this evening of stopping at Target with my girls, in order to pick up a pair of shoes for Maya.  It was 5 pm.. just before dinnertime.  Obviously not a good idea.  The entire time we were in the store - there might have been 5 minutes of not hearing Devika screaming 'NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!'.  And that 5 minutes occurred when I let her out of the cart and she took off sprinting down the aisles at full-speed.  Honestly, that girl is FAST.  She hit the ground running and did not even hesitate at the end of the aisle - just kept flying around the corner and down the next aisle, where I was able to intercept her. 
o m g.  Somehow I maintained myself (outwardly) and simply placed her (took a few minutes of corralling the kicking legs and flailing arms) back in the cart.  I ignored her tantrums and calmly helped Maya select her shoes.  Continued ignoring as we left the store and drove home.  I'm not even sure - I think she stopped yelling prior to check-out - but could be that my brain simply shut-down.

That is just a glimpse into my life as-of-late.  Devika is with me 24/7 now, as we had to pull her out of her preschool/day-care.  While I seriously do enjoy spending more time with her and having more 1:1 time, I am finding it a little challenging to change my mental focus.  I had been very involved and excited about some work-related opportunities and marketing avenues that I was embarking on.. but those have to go on the backburner.   I'm also not going to take more classes this upcoming school year.  Full dedication needed to getting the family life running smoothly and helping Devi adjust/etc.
I am still in the 'new' phase of adjusting to 100% full-time mom.  I need to get better at not being anxious about the non-mom things in my life and focus.  I'm getting there.
Maybe the ADD isn't Devi's issue.. ha!  

So our babysitter now refuses to sit for us, as she is afraid of Devi's tantrums and doesn't know how to handle them.  I do have a new sitter, but she is only available on day/wk for a few hours. 
Needless to say, I'm having to get used to not working much at all.  No way that I can take care of this child and work.  She sleeps well at night, but I am so exhausted by the end of the days that I cannot even focus on anything past 9 pm. 
Luckily D does not melt down too badly if she is given a constant change of activity and is 1:1 with me.  Gymnastics class is great for her - 45 minutes of constantly changing physical activities (only 2 tantrums in todays class).  She also loves water, so I let her play in a baby pool with some barbies today - big hit.  Very warm weather is my friend.

Ok I guess this sounds like a very whiney post, but .. well.. ok maybe it is.  :)  Long day. 
And don't get me wrong here.. (though I'm sure anyone who is a parent will understand).. I luv this kid to death!!  She is amazing, hilarious, incredibly loving (after she beats you over the head of course!), and has an infectious smile.  These issues are not her fault.. it is just up to her parents to help her figure out how to work past them.

Luckily our OT brought us a behavioral analyst last week and I am working on some ideas to try to help some of these tantrum-y issues.  Nothing working yet, but it is too soon.  I haven't finished all of my 'photo-taking' to create visual help for Devi.  She responds well to visual cues, so I am working on addressing many of her meltdown-triggers with photo-cards.  We will see how it goes.
If these ideas do not help, our OT has suggested that we seek further help for D.  She has given me a few names and numbers. 
Devi has also qualified for the special preschool service, so she will be starting that in early August.  Hopefully that will be helpful. 
In the meantime..  thank god for Maya being in a good phase, chik-lit audiobooks that make me laugh, and the fact that we have a pool so that I can swim on the days I cannot run.  Running sooo helps to keep my mood balanced.  Just can't run when Aj travels.  Thankfully he has started a new job/new company where his traveling should be much lighter.  Let's hope! 

If not, you might just look for me in the pantry.  :)

The Endless Loop

My life as a parent seems to be stuck in this endless loop:  
>>Start Loop
Routine, pleasant days.
Change to 'hm, could something be amiss?'
Change to 'omg someone in an 'expert' role has led me to believe that YES something IS amiss!'
Leading to 'research/stepping back to gain perspective/try not to over-worry'
Culminating in: 'ok was NOT as bad as the expert made it sound and everything is fine'. 
>>Goto Start Loop


So now you are wondering - what's new?  Are we at 'hm' or are we at 'omg expert.. blahblahblah yet again'.  Well, we are somewhere in between the two.  There should be support groups for this.  
Maybe there are.

The latest concern is Devi.  We have known for over a year that she has Sensory Processing Disorder, and she has qualified for OT and has been rec'ing in-home OT for a year now.  This week was our evaluation for potential termination of services.  She will be turning 3 in August, which means that if she does qualify for further services, it will be done through preschool and no longer thru at-home care.
She had been doing so great all year that her OT and I seriously thought, 2 months ago, that she would def. not qualify for further care.
But then, everything changed.
Honest to god.. how did this happen?  Everything had been sooo positive!!
What has been happening is this:
The past 2 months, Devi has taken many steps backward.  She has been throwing horrid tantrums at home, being aggressive with her sister (and trying with mom and dad), having sleep issues, and a few other odd new habits have arisen.  She has a series of questions 'where is mommy?' 'where is maya?' 'where is daddy?', 'where is Tasha?' - that she asks ALL the time, over and over.  When it is bedtime, she freaks out and just repeats 'mommy? mommy? mommy? mommy?' forever - inbetween complete terrified panic-attack-type-meltdowns.  There is no way to calm her (that I have found yet).
I kept asking at school (she goes to a preschool a few hours almost every day - mainly b/c this had been working great and leading to improvements in her behavior/speech/etc - and we were going for routine/consistancy) - and they kept telling me that she  was 'high-energy and loud, but happy and chatty'.  So no worries right?
Last week she was 'written up' for aggressive behavior, and we suddenly found out that there were MANY issues that she has had for quite some time.  Boiled down to one word 'uncontrollable'.

So her eval on Tuesday turned out to be 'Eval Part I', b/c the evaluating team thinks that she does need more therapy - and thinks she will qualify for this type of preschool environment.  
They are also quite concerned about some of her delays (not responding to verbal requests, unable to function in even small group situations).  Next week will be the big eval - they are bringing in a psychiatrist who will give the 'yes/no' decision on the preschool and give more input to what is being seen.

Poor Devi.  Just worried for her and her future.  Dam, parenting is never easy is it?  
For now, I have notified the current preschool that I'm pulling her out (they were awesome about this btw - probably bc her teachers are losing their minds).. and I'm going to start spending as much 1:1 time that I can with her, to see if we can achieve some of these milestones that she has missed and get her back to the great place she seemed to have been in a few months ago.  She does great 1:1, so I'm looking forward to helping her.  Also looking forward to advice and info resulting from next week's evaluation. 

Hoping to move on to the next steps of the loop and get back to 'calm routine'!!

Sea Level Is For Sissies!!

 On Monday, Aj and I (and my friend Jamie) joined 50,418 other runners in what Runner's World magazine has labeled 'America's Best 10K'.  Yes that's right.. we both actually entered a 10K race.. and finished in respectable time.  Of course Aj isn't happy with his time - but he is much more athletic and competitive than I (and to be noted.. he did not train for this at all).
I, however, am very happy - happy that I actually ran the entire course!  Yay!  I really thought I would have to walk a mile or 2.. but turned out that I did not.  I have never even jog/walked 10K during my training.. so wasn't anticipating a lot with this race.  I don't think any of the Elites were concerned about my entry!  

I actually could have gone faster, but was afraid that I would bonk if I did.. so took it slow and steady and never even ran short of breath.  Amazing!

The race was seriously fun - thousands of spectators who were partying along the sidelines (the race is a road race and runs through several neighborhoods).. spraying us with hoses (thank god).. and cheering us on.  Many people were in costume - I was actually quite annoyed by a banana who I think stayed ahead of me the entire race!  There were also 35 bands/dancing groups who entertained us in different sections of the race course.
The finish line was inside CU's stadium, which was filled with spectators.  It was a great feeling to run through that stadium toward the finish!  I felt like a football player.. haha!
Anyhow, check off another item on the list of 'Things I Never Thought I Could Do'.  :)  w00t!!!!

A very short slideshow with some photos of the event:  BolderBoulder 2010